Today is tsiknopempth! It is the Thursday very close to the beginning of Lent for the Greek Orthodox Easter, where traditionally we consume meat. And if you’ve ever been to Greece you will know that one of the few things that go perfectly with meat are pies!
Traditionally, pies were peasant dishes, in which people would use literally whatever they had available. Greens from the garden (spanakopita!), cheese from their animals (like in this bulgur wheat pie), you get the idea. But of course, they are quite sophisticated dishes, as they can be elaborate in their making, this is why they are usually made in large trays. But fear not, this is a simple recipe, open to all! It will require some time, so consider this a Sunday affair. Or you know, make it any other day of the week, days seems to have blended into one now that we are in lockdown.
For this one we’ve used the last pumpkins of the season, a very appropriate goodbye to one of our favourite autumn/winter vegetables -yes we are now ready for wild garlic, bring it on, spring!
1.5 kg pumpkin (around 1.350gr flesh)
1 large onion
4 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper (to taste)
85g Carolina rice
250g feta cheese, grated or crumbled
1tsp dried spearmint
8 sheets filo pastry
150g olive oil
Using a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin into smaller pieces. Peel the outer layer. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Coarsely grate the flesh.
Peel and finely chop the onion.
In a medium-sized pot, place the olive oil and onion over medium heat. Cook until caramelised, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the pumpkin and stir well. Season with salt and pepper (but do not add too much salt, as you’ll be adding the salty feta cheese afterwards). Once the pumpkin starts cooking, lower the heat and slowly cook, stirring often for 15 minutes, until soft and tender. Add the rice, stir, and cook for another 20-25 minutes, stirring often.
-Yes, this is a recipe that requires care. But it’s also very relaxing as a process.
You will know that your filling is ready, once the pumpkin is soft and the rice is al dente but not fully cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Preheat the oven at 180C.
In the meantime, prepare your filo. Brush your baking tray with olive oil and place one sheet of the filo. Brush with olive oil again. Cross over a second sheet of filo, ensuring that the entire surface of your tray is covered. Brush with olive oil. Continue crossing over with olive oil and filo, using four sheets in total.
Return to the filling. In the cool pumpkin mixture, add the spearmint, feta cheese and eggs and mix everything together. Check for seasoning and adjust. Place the filling in your tray, careful not to break the filo.
Cover with one sheet of filo and brush it with olive oil. Repeat until the top is covered with four sheets of filo. Tuck in the edges. Brush the top with the remaining olive oil.
Score the pie and bake at 180C at the lower rack of your oven for about one hour.